The gender pay gap in male-dominated industries is a persistent issue that undermines gender equality and hampers the full utilisation of talent within the workforce. Despite numerous efforts to address this disparity, significant challenges remain, particularly in industries such as mining, energy, construction and technology.

These sectors have historically valued traditional forms of “experience”, loosely translating this to meaning industry tenure, often at the expense of recognising the diverse skills and backgrounds women bring.

This article explores five practical strategies to bridge the gender pay gap, drawing on real-world insights and advocating for systemic changes to promote equity and diversity.

  1. Reframe “experience”

The traditional valuation of “experience” in male-dominated fields frequently undervalues the comprehensive skills and achievements of women transitioning from other sectors.

Many women with impressive careers in banking, finance, education and technology have taken roles well below their capabilities upon entering industries like mining and energy, lured and sometimes perplexed by the higher average pay. Women who have previously led multi-billion dollar portfolios and large operational teams can be found heading up small teams, whose organisational impact is limited. Their stories reflect a broader issue: a misalignment between industry expectations and the recognition of transferable skills.

Social media groups for women in mining and FIFO (Fly-In Fly-Out) roles often exacerbate the issues, suggesting new entrants start in lower-level positions, such as cleaning and administration, to gain “industry experience,” a demeaning suggestion for those with extensive education and work history. The focus on industry tenure overlooks the true measures of an employee’s value: competency, capability, motivation and the potential for growth.

Reframe “experience” to remove reference to years in the specific industry. Instead look for a proven track record of measurable success in a diverse range of roles and environments, emotional intelligence, and intrinsic motivation. The number of women meeting eligibility criteria for senior (higher paying) roles will shift instantaneously, bringing with it a much needed lift in diversity of thought and experience.

  1. Put pay equity inflation policies in place

A significant contributor to the gender pay gap is the practice of basing salary adjustments on cumulative CPI (Consumer Price Index) increases, disadvantaging women who enter the industry later in their careers.

These women, often coming in as experienced hires from other fields, may receive a base salary comparable to what a male colleague was offered years earlier, not accounting for inflation. This discrepancy can lead to a cumulative pay gap of 15-50%.

Additionally, the timing of contract signings and start dates can exacerbate this gap, with variations of 5-10% arising simply from the cutoff dates for CPI adjustments in high inflation markets. Establishing policies that ensure pay equity from the outset, adjusted for inflation, is critical for closing this gap.

  1. Pay people at the same level the same money

The structuring of pay scales often reflects and reinforces gender disparities, with roles traditionally dominated by men (such as engineering, projects, and operations) receiving higher compensation than those in fields like HR, safety, and external relations.

Anecdotes from industry executives highlight the rarity of achieving pay parity, even at the highest levels. The principle of “a manager is a manager” should apply universally, ensuring that individuals at the same level of responsibility are compensated equally, regardless of the job function. This approach not only promotes fairness but also aligns monetary recognition with the stated value companies place on roles such as people management and safety.

This also opens the door for increased role flexibility and mobility within an organisation as men may be more inclined to join traditionally female departments and vice versa, increasing the effectiveness of those areas.

  1. Target diversity within job functions

Achieving gender diversity in the workplace means going beyond the mere presence of women in traditionally female roles. The true benefits of diversity—innovation, profitability, and job satisfaction—emerge when there is varied representation within specific teams.

This requires a concerted effort to support women in roles like engineering and maintenance, as well as encouraging men to pursue careers in HR, communications, and administrative support. Breaking down these functional silos is essential for cultivating a more inclusive and dynamic work environment and assist with closing the gender pay gap for front-line roles where discrepancies exist purely due to poor representation of women in operations and trades and men in support roles.

  1. Target caring and flexibility for men

Up to 30% of the gender pay gap can be attributed to the unequal distribution of caregiving responsibilities, which predominantly fall on women. Setting targets and initiatives that promote flexible working arrangements and encourage men to share in caregiving can address a fundamental cause of pay disparity.

This approach also challenges detrimental gender stereotypes, contributing to better mental health outcomes for men and reducing the risk of family and domestic violence. By fostering a culture of shared parenting and caregiving, organisations can make significant strides toward eliminating a substantial portion of the gender pay gap.

Closing the gap with action and commitment

Closing the gender pay gap in male-dominated industries is not just a matter of fairness; it’s a strategic imperative that benefits businesses, employees, and society as a whole.

By redefining how experience is valued, adjusting pay equity policies, ensuring salary parity for the same level of responsibility, promoting gender diversity within job functions, and supporting caring responsibilities for men, organisations can make significant strides toward equality.

These practical ideas offer a roadmap for companies committed to creating a more inclusive, equitable, and productive workplace. Embracing these changes requires a commitment to challenging entrenched norms and practices, but the rewards—enhanced innovation, profitability, and workplace satisfaction—are well worth the effort.